WASHINGTON – The businessman who once supported tighter gun control – and then opposed it after he became a presidential candidate – is now under pressure to switch back in favor of certain new firearms laws.
In the wake of last week's mass shooting at a South Florida high school, Trump has White House meetings scheduled this week with groups of students and local officials about the prospects of tougher gun laws to protect schools.
The president on Monday expressed some support for some changes to the gun background check system, by opening the door to a bipartisan congressional proposal designed to improve the sharing of mental health and criminal record information between state and local agencies and the federal background check database.
“While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
Trump himself did not comment on the gun issue Monday. His weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., was dominated by a renewed gun debate after a student was charged with killing 17 people and injuring more than a dozen others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Sanders confirmed that Trump spoke on Friday with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., about a background check bill he has has introduced with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
Murphy said Trump's apparent support "is another sign the politics of gun violence are shifting rapidly." In a tweet, the Connecticut senator said that "no one should pretend this bill alone is an adequate response to this epidemic."
Yet is unclear how far Trump is willing to go on gun control – or if he'll take any action at all.
During his weekend at Mar-a-Lago, Trump visited a local hospital to speak with people injured in the shooting and their families. Some of the students who survived the shooting blanketed cable television news programs – some watched by Trump – to press their case for more gun legislation.
During a Saturday rally, student and shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez went after the National Rifle Association by saying that "politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call B.S, ... They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call B.S."
Previous mass shootings during Trump's term – from the Las Vegas Strip to a church in South Texas, both within the past five months – have not led to legislative action, in part because Republicans who run Congress say they would be ineffective and in some cases would infringe on Second Amendment gun rights.
In a 2000 book, published well before he ran for president, Trump said he has generally opposes gun control, but at that time did back a "ban on assault weapons" and "a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun."
During his 2016 campaign, Trump became a champion of the Second Amendment and welcomed contributions from the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups. During the NRA convention last year, Trump bashed predecessor Barack Obama and said, "the eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end. You have a true friend and champion in the White House."
Geraldo Rivera of Fox News, who spoke with Trump over the weekend, said he suggested the president back a law to deny the sale of certain weapons to anyone under the age of 21. On Twitter, Rivera also suggested a "safe schools act" to provide federal money for security guards and consultants on "hardening educational institutions to protect our most valuable assets: our school kids."
Trump's critics are skeptical about whether he will really push for anything.
Rick Wilson, a Florida Republican political consultant who has been critical of Trump, said he suspects Trump is "reacting to the fact that he had a lot of folks at Mar-a-Lago reacting to" the killings of students.
"I'd be surprised if there was actual action," he said, "but the NRA and its allies should realize that Trump has no fixed ideology, and reacts to emotion and other impulses."
The Cornyn-backed bill, introduced after a November shooting at a church in Texas, would provide financial incentives to states and federal agencies to work harder to comply with laws requiring them to report criminal and mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
Gun sellers are required, in most circumstances, to run the names of would-be gun buyers through the system to ensure they are not barred from purchasing firearms.
The shooter at the Texas church had been allowed to buy guns despite having a criminal record because the Air Force failed to share his records with the FBI.
Trump, who has cited claims about the suspect's mental health problems and criticized the FBI for failing to follow up on a tip about the shooter, has been reluctant to back gun control after past school shootings.
So have Republican members of Congress, many of whom are recipients of contributions from the National Rifle Association and other gun groups who say the focus should be on mental health and tighter school security measures.
Trump's schedule this week includes at least two events devoted to school violence.
On Wednesday, he is scheduled to host a "listening session" with high school students and teachers. The next day, Trump meets with "state and local officials on school safety," according to the White House schedule.
Trump has been criticized for a Sunday tweet that seemed to blame the school shooting on the FBI's investigation into Russia's election meddling.
"Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter," Trump said. "This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign - there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!"